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Argentina, Uruguay halts flights due to volcanic ash

17 october 2011, 18:39
Passengers wait for news of their flights in Buenos Aires. ©Reuters
Passengers wait for news of their flights in Buenos Aires. ©Reuters
Argentina and Uruguay both suspended flights at major airports Sunday due to dangerous ash from neighboring Chile's Puyehue volcano, which has disrupted global travel since it erupted earlier this year, AFP reports.

Authorities suspended or canceled numerous international flights serving the United States, Peru and Brazil at the Ezeiza airport south of the capital, hours after shutting off Jorge Newbery airport in Buenos Aires.

"We need the ash cloud to pass" before the airlines operating out of the airport, which serves domestic and regional flights, resume their operations, Transport Secretary Juan Pablo Schiavi told local television.

Argentina's LAN airline said in a statement that international as well as domestic flights were affected, including routs to Mendoza on the steps of the Andes mountains toward the Chilean border, and Ushuaia in the far south.

In Uruguay, 15 international flights were canceled at Montevideo's international Carrasco airport, largely affecting flights to Chile and neighboring Argentina and Brazil.

Brazilian air carriers Gol and Tam both canceled their flights Sunday to Buenos Aires and Montevideo, company officials said.

Air traffic in the southern hemisphere has been hit hard in recent months. Airports in Buenos Aires and Montevideo and later those in Australia and New Zealand were paralyzed when the volcano high in the Andes roared back to life in June after sleeping dormant for half a century.

Since June most airports in Argentina have been forced into shutdowns at some point due to dangerous ash threatening the safety of commercial airliners.

The ash cloud also dampened hopes of a good tourist season at the Argentine ski resort of Bariloche, some 1,600 kilometers (1,000 miles) southwest of Buenos Aires and just 100 kilometers (60 miles) southeast of Puyehue, as flights were canceled and pristine snow was darkened by the spewing volcano.

Ash poses a significant threat to aircraft because once sucked into engines, it can be transformed into molten glass by the high temperatures and potentially cause an engine to fail.

The eruption of the Icelandic volcano Eyjafjoll last year caused the greatest shutdown of air space in peacetime Europe, with more than 100,000 flights canceled and eight million passengers affected.

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